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Pray | Stay with me

Church traditions, biblical history show deep connection between Holy Thursday and eucharistic devotion

Christ’s soul battle in Gethsemane (The Agony in the Garden). Artist: Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld.
After the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, Jesus took three disciples — Peter, James and John — to Gethsemane. He asked them to sit while He prayed in the garden. When He returned and found them asleep, He asked them, “Could you not keep watch for one hour?”

There is a deep connection between eucharistic devotion and the events of Holy Thursday — the Last Supper and Jesus’ agony in the garden at Gethsemane. The devotion to the Eucharist in adoration grew out of this moment in Scripture, in which Jesus challenged His disciples who were sleeping in the garden.

Jesus’ agony in the garden is the bridge between the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper and the sacrifice of Calvary that the Eucharist makes present. In our Lord’s agony, He contemplated the full meaning of that sacrifice. When we adore the Lord, we share His sorrow for the sins of the world and our own.

Here are a few suggestions for keeping eucharistic devotion in mind, especially during Holy Thursday (April 18 this year):

• PRAY Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen popularized the notion of a eucharistic Holy Hour. In his autobiography, “A Treasure in the Clay,” he noted that the Lord asked for an hour of prayer of reparation (making atonement for commitment of sins) to combat the evil that we face in our lives.

• REFLECT Father John Hardon, SJ, reflected on the idea that the story of the agony in the garden, in which Jesus is confronted with the forces of evil, helps us with trials or problems we’re facing in our lives. His call is to watch and pray, to avoid temptation and occasions of sin. We ask God for strength to meet trials or problems.

• ACT Processing the Eucharist to an altar of repose at the conclusion of Holy Thursday Mass is a longheld tradition of the Church. Similarly, parishes may organize a seven churches tour on Holy Thursday evening to visit altars of repose at other churches and pray before the Blessed Sacrament.

Additional Resources

• “Holy Thursday: An Intimate Remembrance,” by Francois Mauriac

• “The Hour that Makes My Day,” from the autobiography of Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: bit.ly/2Jhkwsf

• “The Liturgical Year: Passiontide & Holy Week,” by Dom Prosper Gueranger, OSB

• Read the accounts of the Last Supper and Agony in the Garden in the Gospels of Matthew (26:26-46), Mark (14:22-42) and Luke (22:14-46)

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